I sometimes wonder whether David Combe’s detractors have ever read the legend of his sins – the transcript (even as officially bowdlerised) – of his conversation with Ivanov on 4 March 1983. It is upon the fact of this event (but certainly not upon the record of its substance) that Combe is widely charged, not with treachery, but with greed, intolerable ambition, and amazing indiscretion.... (read more)
Gay Bilson reviews 'The Best American Essays 2008' edited by Adam Gopnik and 'The Best Australian Essays 2008' edited by David Marr
In 1977, in three consecutive issues, the New Yorker published Hannah Arendt’s ‘Thinking’. Each part was called an ‘article’, a strangely modest, journalistic word in the face of the length of each part of the essay and the profound subject. Thirty-two years ago, the magazine showed curmudgeonly modesty: writers were named in small print at the foot of each ‘piece’, there was never, god forbid, a sub-editor’s catch-all under the title, no short biographies of the writers were printed, and there were never, ever, visual illustrations or photographs to accompany the text. The issue in which the first of Arendt’s ‘articles’ appeared included poetry by Mark Strand; the long book review was by George Steiner; Pauline Kael was the film reviewer; there were four Saul Steinberg drawings; and Andrew Porter reported on classical music. The list of names we revere could go on.... (read more)
The political assassination of Kevin Rudd will fascinate for a long time to come. As with Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s play it was done, as Lady Macbeth cautioned, under ‘the blanket of the dark’, literally the night of 23–24 June 2010. The assassins heeded Macbeth’s advice: ‘if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.’ And as in Macbeth, the assassins were in the shadow of the throne. Even the old king approved: Bob Hawke, himself deposed in 1991, recognised at last that the removal of a Labor prime minister is sometimes necessary.... (read more)
Writing to Geoffrey Dutton in 1969, Patrick White confesses: ‘All my life I have been rather bored, and I suppose in desperation I have been inclined to weave these fantasies in which I become more “involved”. Ignoble, au fond, but there have been a few results.’... (read more)
The memoirs of any barrister still in harness are, by definition, advertising. The mystery of The Justice Game is what on earth Geoffrey Robertson needs to sell. He is much too busy already. A queue of life’s victims wanting his help in court would stretch twice round the Temple. But drumming up business is not what the book is about. Its real purpose, I suspect, is to show that, despite a certain radical reputation, Robertson is a sound man.... (read more)
There was excitement. David Marr, newly appointed editor of the National Times at just thirty-three, had agreed to speak with politics students on campus. Volunteers were dispatched to buy the obligatory felafel and cheese, plastic cups, and cask wine, and at 3 pm the famous journalist arrived to address ...... (read more)
Lucas Grainger-Brown reviews 'The White Queen: One Nation and the politics of race' (Quarterly Essay 65) by David Marr
David Marr’s interlocking identities as consummate essayist, journalist of forty-five years, ferocious biographer, and staunch cosmopolitan increasingly eclipse his subject. He wears the condition honestly and inelegantly. ‘I’m a grumpy old guy who hasn’t found in twenty years another big life worth writing’, he remarked in his ...
By the time I found him twenty-five years ago in the Adelaide Hills, Glen McBride was old, tiny, spry, and ready to boast about his career. I doubt many readers have heard of this little man or know of his pivotal role in the literature of this country. That’s what had me knocking at his door. And though he disowned none of it in the hours we spent ranging over hi ...
David Marr is not on the list of Australian living treasures, but perhaps he should be. Among our best journalists, he stands out as someone who has consistently challenged the powerful, at his best with forensic skill and deep research. Like other journalist–authors such as Anne Summers and George Megalogenis ...... (read more)